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Dragonlord: A Dark Shifter Romance by Delta James – Sample

Chapter One

The hooded warrior stood vigil as men were ordered by their alphas and betas into the slaughter. Gideon watched as three of the men from one side of the battle dragged the chieftain of the other side from his horse. It appeared as though those who held the beleaguered warrior meant to allow their leader to dispatch him.

The dark stranger turned to go. After all, the affairs of these mortals meant nothing to him. He was returning home and wanted no part of their schemes and disputes. Gideon neither knew nor particularly cared about the specifics of the conflict below. What did intrigue him was the presence of the two females on the fringes of the fighting before one entered into the fray. These she-wolves had courage.

He shook his head, trying to dislodge the smell of blood and dust from his nostrils. What now filled his senses was the undeniable scent of daffodils, a symbol of rebirth and faithfulness. That the fragrance was so powerful amongst the carnage was incongruous. He told himself it was just his imagination; just his desire to be home.

He lifted his face to the sky and inhaled deeply. There it was again, the floral notes of the cool spring mornings from his homeland. His slumber had been long and deep. It would have been more prudent to continue on foot in his human form or shift to something less dramatic, more in concert with his surroundings and less majestic or frightening. But those engaged in battle were consumed by it. Gideon longed to stretch his wings and take to the sky.

He lifted his face to the clouds and inhaled deeply, breathing in the distinctive smell of his home. He felt his cock stir. He shook his head to clear it. Had the gods seen fit to finally gift him with his true heart?

Gideon cleared his mind and for the first time in millennia, he called forth his innermost, truest self and morphed into an enormous dragon with an impressive wingspan. He began to move toward the horizon, picking up speed as he beat his great wings and lifted off the ground. The feeling of leaving the earth’s surface and embracing the sky as he rose up was glorious. Gideon glanced behind him at the battle that seemed to be waning and banked south heading for home. As wonderful as it was to be airborne once again, he longed to set foot on the soil of his homeland, Cornwall.

Bridget watched as Ruari deposited his mate, Arielle, on the ground. Bridget was the former mistress of Dundalk, having been mate to its fallen alpha. Ruari, his younger brother, now led the pack as alpha. The wolf-shifters of Dundalk, Ravenscar, and Calon Onest had become embroiled in a power play by one of the members of the Ruling Council. Their enemy combatant had sought to divide Britannia in half and install himself as a dictator with unfettered power.

Tossing his reins to Arielle, Ruari roared, “If either of you ever expects to sit down again, you will remain here until Connor or I come for you.”

“But, Ruari…” started Arielle.

Ruari leaned out of the saddle, his hand cradling the back of her head beneath her hair. “You will do as I say. You’re in enough trouble as it is.” Bridget watched her new chieftain end his brief tirade with a deep and fierce kiss to Arielle. “You were magnificent. I can’t wait to get you naked beneath me,” he whispered before wheeling his horse around and galloping back into the fray.

“Well, I daresay that went better than I thought,” quipped Bridget.

“Better?” Arielle squeaked.

“Aye. You didn’t get yourself killed and he seems far more interested in getting you back in his bed than over his knee.”

“What was I supposed to do… let him be killed?”

“Nay, I’d have done the same for his brother and did. The difference is I always expected to end up with a striped backside before he made use of me in a way that expressed his gratitude,” Bridget said with a smile.

Bridget liked the new mistress of Dundalk. Although young and relatively untried, she had a good heart, had been trained from birth to be mistress of a great pack and had just proven herself to be fearless and committed to her mate. Bridget on the other hand had been raised to be the wife of a fisherman. She had found herself called to be the fated mate of the then alpha of Dundalk. It had not been an easy transition for her, but in the end, she had loved him and more than that, she loved their daughter, Ciara.

Bridget and Arielle had quickly become friends, almost like sisters. Arielle had shared with her a dream to travel to the wildlands of the west to try to establish an all-female pack that could act as a sanctuary for females of their kind who wished to define their own destinies. One of Arielle’s ancestors had dared to defy the Ruling Council and establish such a refuge, but it had fallen when the Ruling Council sent a powerful group of alpha males to bring the females back into the fold, so to speak. The legend was that the members had all ended up in happy, fated pairings but Bridget had often wondered about that. Hers was said to have been the same, and she never doubted it, although her mate had seemed to feel the call more keenly than she.

“I’m assuming you have abandoned your idea to establish an all-female pack?” Bridget teased.

Arielle smiled. “I believe my destiny is what I was always told it would be… mate to a powerful alpha and mistress of a great pack.”

“It’s not the worst thing a she-wolf can be, especially if her mate is besotted with her, as is clearly the case with Ruari.”

“And I with him. Will you be in much trouble… for helping me?”

“Probably, but you aren’t to worry.”

Bridget paused as suddenly she was seized by a plan for her future. A new destiny, one she would carve out for herself.

“Ari, if something happened to me… if I was to disappear, you would look after Ciara until I returned, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would. But what could happen to you? You aren’t thinking of running away to keep from getting spanked, are you? It didn’t work out so well for me when I tried it,” Arielle said, smiling. “Or it didn’t work out the way I initially wanted it to.”

“I daresay it worked out the way you truly wanted it to be. I envy you.”

Arielle took her hand. “You are young, and any wolf would be proud and lucky to take you to mate.”

“Ha! I am widow to an alpha with his child at my side. Not a very appealing prospect for most, except to cement an alliance with Dundalk. I do not believe, for even a moment, that your mate or our pack would let me go traipsing off with just any wolf who came sniffing around my tail.”

“Ruari would never deny you a fated mate.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t know that you can have two fated mates in a single lifetime,” Bridget said with a wistful smile.

“They say my ancestress did. She was supposed to have had one here in Britannia and another in the Americas.”

“Perhaps, but your ancestress was said to have been extraordinary.”

“You are…” started Arielle.

“No,” laughed Bridget. “I am not. I am the daughter of a fisherman, selected by the alpha of Dundalk to be his mate and then widowed. I’m not sure what my destiny holds, but I think I’m done with having males decide my fate. I have begun to wonder if I am not alone. I was lucky in that Ruari’s brother was my fated mate, but many she-wolves are not given much choice about whom they will mate… especially those of you who are highborn.”

Their conversation was cut short as Ruari and the pack’s beta, Connor, approached. Bridget tried to maneuver her horse between the angry alpha and his mate but was prevented by Connor, who drew alongside her.

“So, you were victorious?” asked Bridget.

Connor nodded. “You and I need to ride back to Ravenscar where we will discuss your involvement in this misadventure.”

Bridget looked at his stern visage and repressed a shudder. It had been a long time since she had been disciplined by anyone other than a mate.

“Misadventure?” queried Bridget. “From up here, it looked like if it hadn’t been for Arielle, Clan Dundalk would have been without an alpha once again.”

“Hold your tongue, Bridget! Were it not for you, Arielle would not have been able to leave Dundalk,” growled Ruari.

Bridget laughed. “I’m not the one who got her to Eire. She managed to do that without anyone’s help. I would caution you not to underestimate your mate. She may be young, but she is intelligent, resourceful, and courageous.”

Bridget watched as Arielle quietly turned her horse away from the gathering. She guided her horse into an easy canter in the opposite direction from Ravenscar and her angry mate. Ruari noticed and wheeled his horse around to charge after her. Bridget was about to go after them when Connor took hold of her rein.

“You leave Arielle to her mate; you, my lady, had best be concerned with what I deem as proper punishment for a she-wolf of Dundalk who has disobeyed her alpha and placed herself and her mistress in danger.”

Unwilling to back down, Bridget drew herself up. “She would have gone with or without me so it could be argued that I worked to help keep her safe.”

Connor grinned. “Aye, it could, but then we both know your past penchant for disobeying the rules and following one’s mate into battle. And you are well aware of the consequences of doing so.”

“But you are only a beta and, therefore, cannot offer me the consolation of knotting and tying me to you after welting me.”

“More’s the shame, Bridget. You’re a fine she-wolf and my hope is that Ruari will find you another alpha to warm your bed and your backside. Perhaps the lesson will be better retained if that particular source of comfort is not available to you after your punishment.”

Connor took control of her horse and turned back toward Ravenscar. Unable to do anything else, Bridget steadied herself in the saddle as Connor led her back to Gareth and Sloan’s stronghold. They were greeted by a stable hand, who took their horses from them.

As he helped her dismount, Connor said, “Make this easy on both of us and it’ll only be my hand that reminds you of your place and the consequences for disobeying one’s alpha.”

Bridget sighed and tried to resign herself to the fact that she was about to be punished. The fact that there had once been a time no male wolf, other than her mate, would have touched her was in sharp contrast to her present situation. She was about to have her bottom bared and spanked by a wolf she had once out-ranked. It was humbling to say the least.

She had no doubt that Ruari had left instructions with Connor to ensure she felt the sting of his wrath and grimaced at the idea that riding home to Dundalk would be unpleasant. Connor kept his hand on her elbow as she was escorted to her room.

Connor directed her toward the large bed where he sat down, pulled her toward him, and reached for the waistband of her breeches.

“Nay, Connor, at least spare me that indignity.”

“At Dundalk, she-wolves get punished on the bare. You know that; especially if that she-wolf knows better and you knew better.”

Reaching for her breeches again, Connor growled as Bridget tried to resist.

“Won’t you at least allow me a moment to compose myself…”

“Do you want to feel my hand on your bare backside, or would you prefer, while you do so, that I remove my belt to use on you?”

Bridget tried to stay his hand as she searched his face and saw only grim determination. She hoped he was finding the reversal of their roles, and the power associated with them, as awkward as she was. She would have preferred to have found some trace of sympathy or chink in his resolve, but there was none to be had. She removed her hand, placing it at her side.

“Good girl,” he said soothingly as he drew her breeches down, exposing her bottom, and guided her over his knee. “This will be as difficult for me as it will for you.”

“Then why do it?”

“Because it needs doing. You are no longer mistress of this pack and when you are in need of correction, I will be the one who supplies it.”

Before she had a chance to reconcile herself that she was about to be subjected to the same punishment that the other unmated she-wolves in the pack endured, Connor’s hand connected sharply with her backside.

“Shit! Connor, you bastard!” she hissed between gritted teeth.

“That’s not the way for a she-wolf to speak to her beta, especially if she doesn’t want her bottom turned a deep shade of red.”

Connor’s hand rose and descended in a staccato tempo of ever-increasing heat and pain. The fire along her backside did not spark her arousal as it had when her mate had been alive. At least when he’d disciplined her, there was always the knowledge that there would be a good bout of rough pleasure to follow and usually the ecstasy of the knot. This time, however, all that she felt was anger, resentment, and ever-increasing soreness.

Deciding that Connor was some kind of sadist, Bridget tried to endure his repeated strikes to her derriere without giving him the satisfaction of bursting into tears and begging him to stop. She found it difficult, and then impossible to do. Bridget kicked her legs and tried to wriggle free from his grasp as he stained her backside with the red left by his harsh handprints. That only caused him to trap her legs and hold her more tightly.

“That’s enough, Bridget. No she-wolf has ever gotten away from me when being spanked and you won’t be the first. Unfortunately for you, I know enough about how you behave when you’re spanked that I won’t quit until I have you in tears and you apologize to me.”

Her mate had always said Connor was very effective in his role as beta when disciplining the unmated females in their pack. He was experienced in knowing how to inflict a sufficient level of discomfort and lasting sting that most managed to avoid a second trip over his knee. Bridget now understood why.

Connor continued to cover her rump with a steady stream of painful blows. She gritted her teeth and then bit her lip to try to keep from giving him the satisfaction of bursting into tears. As her backside continued to feel the depth of Connor’s chastisement, she tried clenching her buttocks to ward off the pain to no avail.

“I can keep this up longer than you,” Connor said, spanking her to punctuate his words.

Bridget could stand no more and finally cried out as the tears began to fall.

“Enough, Connor,” she pleaded.

“You apologize for your misbehavior.”

“All right, I’m sorry I disobeyed Ruari and left the keep and I’m sorry I helped Arielle disobey him too. Now, please stop,” she said, finally succumbing to her tears.

Mercifully, the raining blows stopped, and Connor’s hand rested lightly on her behind.

“That’s a good girl. You know better, don’t you?” he said, not unkindly.

Bridget knew the drill. “Yes, Beta.”

“And you’ll behave better in the future, won’t you?”

“Yes, Beta,” she said, trying to hide the recrimination in her tone.

“Good girl,” he said, helping her to her feet. “You go stand in the corner.”

Bridget reached for her breeches, but Connor’s warning admonishment made her sigh in resignation and walk to the corner. She had always hated having to stand facing the corner like a recalcitrant child, even when she had been one. When she had been mated, at least she had been nude and could expect to be mounted and taken from behind to the satisfied sounds of her mate’s expression of sheer male dominance and pleasure. Now there was nothing but a feeling of being trapped in a life she had never wanted.

“Connor?”

“Yes, Bridget?”

“You don’t think Ruari will be too harsh with her, do you?”

“I think he will do as he sees fit. As he is her fated mate and she has a passionate nature, I suspect she’ll end up sore and tired, but happy and settled knowing the depth of his love.”

“Connor?” she asked again.

“Yes, Bridget?”

“Do you think Ruari wants to offer me up to other alphas?”

His hand coming up and resting gently on her shoulder startled her.

“Nay. Ruari would not see you mated against your will unless he could be assured that you were that alpha’s fated mate.”

“What if I still didn’t want it?” she whispered, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Connor chuckled. “Then, I suspect, he’d let him force you to run.”

“Bah!” she snarled. “There’s no way for a she-wolf to win. Either the bastard catches her easily or just keeps hounding her until she finally gives up and she quits trying to escape.”

“Aye,” he said. She could hear the smile in his voice. “Which is why most she-wolves yield to the call of their fated mate.” Connor patted her backside. “If you think you can behave yourself, I’ll have a bath and proper clothing sent up for you. You’re to fold the breeches and shirt in a neat pile. One of our people will pick them up.”

He stopped speaking. Bridget sensed that he was waiting to see if she would move until given permission to do so.

“You can pull up the breeches, Bridget, and come out of the corner.”

She turned to face him.

“If I have to discipline you again for either leaving the keep without permission or aiding our mistress in disobeying her mate, you’ll feel my belt across your backside. Understood?”

Bridget dutifully lowered her eyes. “Yes, Beta.”

Connor left her and Bridget opted to enjoy a bath and a quiet night in her room alone. The next morning, she made use of the gown that had been provided for her. She had just finished her breakfast when she heard a commotion outside the manor house and word came that Ruari had returned with Arielle. Bridget rushed out accompanied by Sloan, the mistress of Ravenscar. Sloan had once been human and had served Arielle when she had lived at Calon Onest. Gareth, alpha of Ravenscar, had turned her when he claimed her as his mate. Ruari growled when they approached his mate too quickly and too closely.

“Who the hell do you think you are to growl at me in the courtyard of my home?” challenged Sloan.

Bridget knew Sloan’s reputation and admired her for it. She wished they lived closer as she felt they could become good friends if given the opportunity.

“He thinks, my beloved,” said Sloan’s mate, Gareth, “that he is the mate to a very naughty she-wolf and doesn’t need or want any interference on your or Bridget’s part. And while Bridget’s misbehavior is his to deal with… yours is mine. If you don’t apologize immediately, I will use a strap to remind you again of the deference you will show to an alpha wolf.”

Gareth did not raise his voice, and the arm he wrapped around Sloan’s waist was more loving than threatening, but the steel of command in his tone of voice was unmistakable.

Both Bridget and Sloan quieted immediately. Ruari dismounted and then lifted Arielle down.

“Sloan, do you have a gown you can let Arielle borrow for our trip home? Bridget, I’m glad to see you in more appropriate clothing. I trust Connor emphasized the importance of curtailing the level of foolishness you showed in accompanying and enabling my mate in her willful disobedience?”

Bridget took a deep breath and lowered her eyes.

“Yes, my alpha. He made both his and your feelings on the matter clear in no uncertain terms.”

Gareth chuckled. “Now that we have that settled… Sloan, why don’t you and Bridget take Arielle upstairs and help her into something more suitable.” Turning back to Ruari, he continued, “Will you be staying the night?”

Ruari shook his head. “As my men only suffered minor injuries, I would prefer to make the best of the daylight and begin the trek for home. I am even more newly mated than you and would like to be able to get home and take my mate into seclusion.”

“An excellent idea,” agreed Gareth.

Sloan and Bridget led Arielle into the manor house and up the stairs to a guest room.

“Shit, Ari, when did that bastard take you to mate?” hissed Sloan the moment they were alone with Bridget.

“The day you arrived. In fact, I’d just taken my vows…” said Arielle quietly.

Apparently, Arielle had kept Sloan, with whom she was close, in the dark regarding the circumstances around her becoming Ruari’s mate.

“Had them forced from you,” interrupted Bridget.

“He forced you?” asked Sloan. “Did he hurt you? I’ll have his guts for garters if he did.”

Bridget smiled. Yes, she would very much enjoy the opportunity of getting to know the mistress of Ravenscar better.

“No,” said Arielle quickly. “He called me to mate. We are fated. I refused him and challenged him to let me run. He did; it didn’t work out the way I thought it would.”

“How did you think it would turn out?” asked Bridget.

“I thought he’d head back to town or at least the coast. I wasn’t thinking he’d actually track me. So even though I went west, he caught me… not once, but twice. The second time, he marked and claimed me.”

“You mean after he got you back to your keep?” asked Sloan suspiciously.

Feeling in no mood to protect Ruari’s feelings or reputation, Bridget said, “Oh, no. He took her maidenhead and marked her on the ground. Granted, he didn’t do it as a wolf, but still…”

“Bridget, don’t make it out to be worse than it was,” shushed Arielle. “I challenged him; he won. He took what was his, but that night he more than made up for it. After all, I could have asked you to help me escape instead of helping me to ride to his side.”

Sloan grinned at her. “I always said you and Rowan were more alike than most people thought. And right then, you sounded just like her. That knot thing can go a long way to helping you decide perhaps being mated to them isn’t so bad.”

Bridget and Arielle looked at each other before looking back at Sloan and then starting to laugh.

“Although I could do without the whole getting my ass beat,” quipped Sloan.

“At least you and Arielle had someone to make up for the pain by pleasuring you afterwards,” said Bridget.

“True,” mused Sloan. “But what is it they find so compelling about using your bottom hole for pleasure? Any time Gareth wants to reinforce his dominance, I get my ass fucked.”

“The worst part is that I found pleasure in that as well. I climaxed for him and took great satisfaction when he emptied himself in me,” said Arielle quietly.

Bridget could see that Arielle feared she had said too much until both women laughed and agreed with her. The two women helped Arielle into a lovely gown that she was sure Ruari wouldn’t object to.

Bridget shook her head. “If they’re bastards, we’re sick bitches for loving them the way we do. Why did you head west? There’s nothing out there, except maybe mutants and monsters.”

“And shapeshifters,” said Sloan. “I’ve always heard that the last stronghold of the shapeshifters was there.”

The next two and a half days were spent making their way to the warship that would take them back to Dundalk. Ruari instructed his men, over Bridget’s protests, to seize the ship she and Arielle had used and to ensure that it was tied up at the main dock and guarded in such a way that neither Arielle nor Bridget could ever use it again without his permission. Once they had made landfall at Dundalk, Ruari left Connor in town to ensure that the guards at the harbor instituted more vigilant patrols to safeguard their people.

The group that had gone to the aid of those at Ravenscar and Calon Onest were greeted with a hero’s welcome as they entered the bailey of the castle. Bridget’s daughter ran to meet her mother and pestered her for tales of her adventure.

“See that you include the fact that both of you were punished for your misbehavior,” admonished Ruari as he helped Arielle off her horse while the captain of the guard did the same for Bridget.

Seamus, the omega to the pack at Dundalk, came out of the keep wagging his finger and clucking under his tongue at both women. “You’d both better behave yourselves and make sure the rest of the she-wolves at Dundalk know the price you paid for your recklessness.”

“Reckless she may have been, but it was your lady who killed Edwyn and saved my life,” admonished Ruari before leading his mate into the keep.

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